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Published: December 2011
Global caprolactam operating rates reached 90% in 2010, improving sharply from depressed markets in 2008–2009. Steady economic recovery and strong Asian demand in end-use markets, particularly automotive (tire cord, air bags, engine components, exterior and interior trim), contributed to a 10% jump from 2009 to 2010 and continuing into the first half of 2011. Production levels slowed, however, in the second half of 2011 on diminishing economic activity and softening demand.
The following pie chart shows world consumption of caprolactam:
Caprolactam is used primarily in the production of nylon 6 fibers and nylon 6 resins and films. About 54% of world caprolactam consumption is for nylon 6 fibers and around 43% is for nylon 6 resins and films. Nylon 6 fibers are used in the textile, carpet and industrial yarn industries. Nylon resins are used as engineering plastics, with applications in the automotive industry, specialty film packaging for food, and wire and cable.
Caprolactam is widely traded. Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Japan and the United States send significant quantities to China, Taiwan and the Republic of Korea. China will remain a major importer of caprolactam even with proposed new capacity to begin operation over the next several years. Antidumping duties placed on imports of caprolactam and nylon chip from the United States, EU countries, Taiwan and Russia over the next five years will most likely have little effect on levels of imports.
Other Asia (excluding China and Japan) is the largest caprolactam consuming region in the world at approximately 30% of global demand in 2010. The gradual shifts in nylon 6 textile fiber production to Asia, followed by developments in automobile, plastics and electronics manufacturing away from the more industrialized regions of North America, Western Europe and Japan, have contributed to growth. Regional demand growth will only be approximately 1% per year during the forecast period.